|Traditional Karelian embroidery|
The main street of Ilomantsi is Kalevalantie, named after the Finnish national epic Kalevala. Quite a few of the poems of the epic were collected from this area (besides other regions in Karelia) by Elias Lönnrot who toured Karelia in early 19th century to find singers who still remembered the ancient poems and verses.
The cultural centre is not yet open when I arrive there but despite that I get a friendly welcome and a brief guided tour - thanks!
Katri Vala (1901-1944) was a writer, poet and teacher and one of the first poets in Finland who wrote free verse. She lived in Ilomantsi for some years both during her childhood and in 1925-29. The exhibitions in the Katri Vala Cultural Centre are in Finnish language only so it may be easier to focus on the photography and art exhibitions than on learning about Katri's life and her poems if you don't read Finnish.
However, some of the artwork that is related to Katri Vala's poem's may open more easily: the hall upstairs features hand woven Poetry rugs by Pauli Hiltunen. Each of them was inspired and tells a story of a poem by Katri. Even without knowing the language you can try to guess what the story is about - the summer, the spring...Kauko Jeskanen's woodwork, each piece carved from a single block of wood only, are totally amazing. The photography exhibitions include U. Pekka Kinnunen's photos of brown bears and another one displays the local sports club's history.
Parppeinvaara. The Kalevala spirit is present in the exhibition. According to the first poem in Kalevala, sotka (or telkkä), Common Goldeneye laid eggs on Ilmatar's (Virgin of the Air) knee and when the eggs fell down and broke, they eventually gave birth to this world, the stars, the skies, everything.
Continuation War, especially in 1942-43.